Melbourne Restaurant Reviews: The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar

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Archive of ‘Burleigh Heads’ category

Review: Canteen Kitchen (Gold Coast, QLD)

23 Park Avenue
Burleigh Heads QLD 4220
+61 7 5534 3877

Burleigh Heads has got to be my favourite area in the Gold Coast. It’s in a central location, the beach is right at your doorstep and there are more than a handful of decent restaurants to sate your appetite. The thing I have to whinge about is that it’s always packed and it can often be hard to find parking, even on weekdays – do these beach bums not work?!

Regardless, Marty and I found parking near the bowls club and off we went up Park Avenue for some breakfast at Canteen Kitchen, the then-new sister café to Canteen Coffee, a coffee kiosk that’s been giving Burleigh residents their coffee fix for quite some time now.

Cold-pressed latte ($6)

Cold-pressed latte ($6)

With the Gold Coast sun blaring down on us that morning, I thought a cold-pressed latte would be the perfect thing to cool me down. It was beautifully milky with only the slightest hint of sweetness. Obviously having the milk and ice there meant that it wasn’t as strong as a hot latte but it did perk me up.

West African iced chocolate ($6)

West African iced chocolate ($6)

Marty had the West African iced chocolate, presumably called so because the cocoa beans come from West Africa. It was a stronger drink than my latte but we both preferred my latte – the iced chocolate was a bit too strong for my liking.

Lamb kofta burger, beetroot relish, Lebanese cucumber, minted yoghurt ($16)

Lamb kofta burger, beetroot relish, Lebanese cucumber, minted yoghurt ($16)

Canteen Kitchen’s menu dabbles into Middle Eastern territory, thus it is no surprise that lamb koftas, broad beans and labneh make regular appearances on patrons’ tables. Marty ordered the lamb kofta burger, which was full of fresh ingredients.

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Marty thought the burger was alright but not fantastic. I had to agree – the lamb could have done with a bit more spice, especially since both the minted yoghurt and beetroot relish, although fresh, had muted flavours.

Scrambled egg, za’atar flat bread, labneh, green olives, lamb kofta ($18)

Scrambled egg, za’atar flat bread, labneh, green olives, lamb kofta ($18)

My scrambled egg with lamb kofta dish was much more flavoursome. The za’atar spices gave the dish a generous dose of oomph, while the flat bread and scrambled eggs got me full even before the halfway mark. Still, I managed to finish the whole thing off – after all, I can never waste good green olives!

Our breakfast at Canteen Kitchen pretty much cements Burleigh’s reputation for being the best area for food on the Gold Coast. While I wouldn’t be recommending the lamb kofta burger to anyone, I can definitely recommend their cold-pressed coffees and the Middle Eastern-inspired menu is a fresh change from the eggs/avocado/savoury mince dishes and Merlo coffee combo that most Gold Coast cafés spruik.

Canteen Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Fish House, The (Burleigh Heads, QLD)

50 Goodwin Terrace
Burleigh Heads QLD 4220
+61 7 5535 7725
http://www.thefishhouse.com.au/

Marty’s last girlfriend broke up with him after five months, presumably because he was too difficult to deal with. I, on the other hand, have been with him for two years. An achievement of this magnitude is surely a cause for celebration so after some nagging, I finally convinced Marty to ‘take me out for seafood’ during my last visit up to the ‘Coast (hmm on that note, maybe I’m the difficult one so he is the person who should be getting kudos and not me?)

I initially chose Omero Bros in Main Beach for this seafood fiesta but after hearing good things about The Fishhouse in Burleigh Heads, I changed my mind. And man, I’m so glad I did.

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Marty booked a table right by the window so we can admire surfers Burleigh Beach in all its sun-drenched beauty. While I appreciated the thought, the afternoon sun glare meant that most of my photos were masked in that ghastly sun glare. Note to partners of food bloggers: DO NOT book tables by the window when the weather is going to be this perfect! (#firstworldfoodbloggerproblems)

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Owned by Simon Gloftis of Hellenika fame, The Fishhouse has only been around since 2012 but it is quietly but swiftly making ripples in Queensland food industry. Gloftis grew up eating heaps of seafood and wanted to show Gold Coastitutes what he could do with seafood at Hellenika – except that people kept ordering lamb there. Nekminit, out comes The Fishhouse. Gloftis’ aim here is to buy the best available seafood and create something delicious while ‘try[ing] not to mess with it too much.’ With head chef Aaron Smith manning the kitchen, the Fishhouse team delivers beautiful food with service that’s as friendly as a seal pup yet quick as a marlin.

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We started off with some freshly baked bread and butter. Because the butter was so good, I initially thought that it was churned in-house. Imagine my surprise, then, when our lovely waiter told us that it was store-bought! Of course, this magically soft and creamy butter came from none other than Pepe Saya, the cultured butter specialists.

I know I was meant to limit my bread and butter intake but I couldn’t help but say ‘yes’ when the waiter asked us if we wanted more butter. It really was THAT good and once my 1kg block of Myrtleford butter is completely devoured, I will going straight to my nearest Pepe Saya stockist.

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Because we were celebrating a special occasion, we decided to splurge on some caviar. Marty’s never had it and he wanted to try it because he wanted to boss it up for the day. Eh, why not? The Fishhouse sells Oscietra caviar from the Russian sturgeon at $140 for 30g. It’s not something that you’d eat every day for morning tea but today, we were all like YOLO, like, whatevs.

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To eat the caviar, we scooped the little eggs up with a mother of pearl spoon and dabbled them onto a piece of blini. After we scooped up some crème fraiche to go with it, we bit into it, groaned in ecstasy and reached for a shot of chilled vodka. We were already having a ball – and we hadn’t even received our starters.

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Marty’s starter was the seared baby calamari with tomato concasse, chilli and parsley ($22). The squid, from South Australia, was cut into beautiful curly ribbons, each of them perfectly cooked. You don’t need to be a chef to know that calamari is hard to get right so we were both impressed at how tender yet chewy the calamari was. Dressed in a light tomato concasse and a little bit of chilli for kicks and giggles, this was a lovely starter.

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I went raw with the Petuna ocean trout from Macquarie Habour in Tasmania ($16). Drizzled with lemon and olive oil and garnished with dill, the trout set a benchmark for WOW. Marty and I have always loved raw fish but this dish was another level altogether. It was amazing and this crappy photo does not do it justice.

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Marty’s main was the King George whiting from Port Lincoln, South Australia ($46). The fillets were lightly crumbed and pan roasted and man, they were delicious even without a squeeze of lemon.

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While the fish was beautiful, I have to say that the homemade tartare sauce was the star of the show. Yes, I know that I sound sacrilegious but it’s true, we couldn’t get enough of that stuff. The sauce was creamy, fresh and punctuated with wonderfully fragrant herbs. If McDonalds ever discovered the recipe for THIS tartare sauce and slopped it on their Filet O’Fish burgers, I’d happily pay $10 a pop for them.

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My coral trout from Cairns ($42) was beautiful but I have to say that it paled slightly in comparison to Marty’s whiting. Ugh, food envy much? Regardless, it was beautifully steamed in a fennel, lemon and olive oil emulsion. Given The Fishhouse’s focus on simplicity, I did think that the sauce was very flavoursome yet not enough that it overpowered the delicate flavour of the fish.

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We were also given some sides. We were impressed with the baked potato gratin that looked very much like a potato lasagne, crispy edges and all.

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Also decent were the green beans and heirloom carrots but the green salad (not pictured) was pedestrian.

We were full but Marty, being Marty, couldn’t leave without trying dessert. All I wanted was a scoop of ‘smoked ice cream’ (it was the only thing on the dessert menu that caught my eye) but Marty wanted to go all out. In the end, we decided to compromise: go the apple tarte tatin ($28) but instead of its default vanilla bean ice cream, we would ask for the smoked ice cream (offering to pay extra, of course). The waiter went one better – he’d give us the apple tarte tatin as it is but give us a scoop of smoked ice cream for free. Talk about brilliant service.

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The apple tarte tatin was designed to feed two people (hence the price). I might have initially whinged about over-ordering but as soon as I sunk my chompers into the crispy, flaky pastry in all its sticky syrup drizzle, I thanked Marty profusely (in my head, of course – I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction). The pastry may have done it for me, but I also liked the Moorish apple filling which paired well with the smooth and silky vanilla bean ice cream.

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And here is the house made smoked ice cream (normally $3.50). A previous customer told the restaurant that the flavour reminded them of roasted marshmallows and we had to agree – it was sweet but the slightly smoky flavour just added a whole new dimension to it. It reminded me of summer school camps, even though Total Fire Bans prevented us from having camp fires 95% of the time. Oh and how did they get the smoky flavour? Pu-erh tea, of course.

Our experience at The Fishhouse was borderline perfect. We couldn’t have asked for a better anniversary lunch than one with friendly laidback staff and some of the best food I’ve had on the Gold Coast accompanied by an unrivalled view of Burleigh Beach. As of now, The Fishhouse is officially my favourite restaurant on the Gold Coast.

The Fish House on Urbanspoon

Review: From Earth and Water (Gold Coast, QLD)

2 West Street
Burleigh Heads QLD 4220
+61 7 5520 7907
http://www.fromearthandwater.com.au

When it comes to restaurants, Marty and I ashamedly admit that we never put vegan restaurants on the top of our list of places to try. We love meat, dairy and eggs, and lasagne is my favourite food that covers all three. So when we stumbled across a vegan restaurant in Burleigh Heads over the summer, our initial reaction was, ‘Pfft yeah nah…’ but when we actually read the menu taped on the window, we grew interested. The restaurant, called From Earth and Water, was closed that evening but we made a promise to return the very next day for lunch.

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From Earth and Water is chef Nicki Fulton’s baby. Everything on the menu is vegan so you won’t see any animal products. The food is not just gluten and dairy-free, but you also won’t see refined sugars and processed ingredients in here. And although most of the food is raw, there are some ingredients that have been cooked at very low cooking temperatures to preserve enzymes. And the best bit? Everything’s in season so you don’t have to freak out about food miles and whatnot. Given that I’m trying to wean off some bad eating habits (my packet of chip habit a day, anyone?) and given that Marty was on a health and fitness streak at the time, we decided to see what From Earth and Water could come up with.

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I love just how simple yet elegant this place is. Whitewashed walls and matching furniture adorn the place with little trinkets such as shells and flowers all over, making the restaurant look like something out of Marie Claire magazine. I also liked that they opened the massive windows to let the cool sea breeze from nearby Burleigh Beach in.

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We started off with some juices. Marty ordered the Green Hawaiian ($8), a wonderfully green mix of pineapple, mint, spirulina, coconut water. It was just as amazing as my Pineapple crush ($8) which contained pineapple, lime, vanilla bean, coconut water. Both were some of the best mixed juices I’ve ever had and I’ve since been inspired to whip up some coconut water-based juice mixes at home.

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Marty ordered the trio of mini tacos ($18). The hard taco shells were made in-house with flaxseed. They were filled with a very vibrant mix of sweet corn guacamole, cherry tomatoes, cashew sour cream and spicy Mexican vinaigrette. I loved the textural contrast between the crunchy taco shells and the guac’, though the three-month aged non-dairy cashew sour cream from Dr Cow was my favourite bit – it was so hard to believe that it didn’t actually contain real dairy!

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While Marty’s tacos were great, we both agreed that my micro heirloom tomato lasagne ($18) was the winner. I love heirloom tomatoes in any form but have never had them confit-style so when I took a bite, my mind was blown. WOW. The rest of the elements were fantastic too, from the almond cheese to the basil rocket pesto and to the sundried tomato sauce. Even the zucchini sheets didn’t suck (and I don’t normally like zucchini).

If you thought our savoury dishes sounded good, your eyes would light up if you saw the dessert menu. Not being a dessert fan, even I couldn’t help but clap my hands in glee when I saw that the caramel snickers ($12) contained ingredients such as vanilla cream and cacao mousse and caramel made from lucuma, a Peruvian fruit. Marty was equally excited in trying the peaches and cream ($12) which contained compressed peaches macerated in lime coconut sugar, maple pecan crumble, edible flowers, vanilla ice cream. Unfortunately for us, the desserts had already sold out by the time we got around to ordering so we’ll have to go back next time *sad face*

If you’ve never had raw cuisine before but you’re curious, From Earth to Water is definitely a great place to start. The food was FANTASTIC. It was amazing to see just how much flavour good quality – and raw – foodstuffs can contain, especially without adding nasty chemicals in them. Also, the dishes might have looked small but they were surprisingly filling so we probably would have struggled to finish dessert if were able to order some. Although Marty and I won’t be turning our backs on cheeseburgers, we’re definitely more conscious about what goes in our bodies and I guess that’s always a good thing.

From Earth and Water on Urbanspoon

Vecchia Roma (Gold Coast, QLD)

Cnr Gold Coast Highway and West Burleigh Road
Burleigh Heads QLD 4220
+61 7 5535 5988

Gold Coast may have plenty of Italian restaurants but it’s very rare to find one that’s actually good. My favourite pizzeria up there is Justin Lane in Burleigh Heads; not only do they do fantastic pizzas, their pastas and cocktails are ridiculously good. So with that in mind, Marty and I drove down the Gold Coast Highway for some pizzas at Justin Lane.

Unfortunately, Justin Lane was packed by the time we arrived (just after 8pm, on a Saturday night) and we were told that there’d be AT LEAST a 45-minute wait for a table. While we like their pizzas, we did not like waiting so we decided to find an alternative dinner destination nearby. After doing several rounds of James Street, we ended up at Vecchia Roma.

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The restaurant itself is small and its alcoves create an intimate setting for those wanting a romantic Italian dinner. There was no room inside for us when we arrived so we were seated outside with a view of the highway (which I thought was odd). I initially thought the reason this place was so busy on most nights was because it was the fallback restaurant for those who couldn’t get into Justin Lane. That may hold true for some of us but apparently Vecchia Roma had been open for some 30 years. A lot of things on the Gold Coast don’t have that sort of longevity so I’d say that Vecchia Roma are doing pretty well.

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Although Vecchia Roma do a roaring takeaway pizza trade, we decided to settle for the pastas. Marty ordered the penne with sausage ragu. It was an okay dish but it would have been better if the pasta was homemade and if the ragu had a bit of depth in it. It wasn’t anything either of us couldn’t make at home. This was in stark contrast to Justin Lane’s pappardelle with slow-cooked beef cheek ragu, which we both love so dearly.

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I ordered the angel hair pasta with prawns, spinach and tomato at the recommendation of the waitress. To be honest, I preferred Marty’s pasta – at least it was somewhat tasty. The white wine-based sauce was on this one was a little bit weak, making my pasta slightly on the bland side if it weren’t for the parmesan cheese on top.

We weren’t particularly impressed with Vecchia Roma. Our dishes were just okay, but definitely not worth the drive down to Burleigh Heads when there are dozens of mediocre Italian restaurants in Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach. Furthermore, our waitress was friendly but the pastas did take quite some time to arrive. In hindsight, I probably would have been happier waiting 45 minutes for a table at Justin Lane than eat at Vecchia Roma.

Vecchia Roma Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Justin Lane (Gold Coast, QLD)

1708-1710 Gold Coast Highway
Burleigh Heads QLD 4220
+61 7 5576 8517
justinlane.com.au

After spending most of the afternoon at Yas’ bachelor’s pad watching Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (don’t ask), Dom, Marty and I decided to have an early dinner at possibly the best pizza restaurant on the Gold Coast. Screw Eagle Boys and Marie’s, Justin Lane is where you should be going if you feel like simple but amazing pizzas.

Justin Lane sits in an old arcade that saw its halcyon years back in the 1970s. It covers two intimate dining rooms and pretty much all of the walkway, hence the ‘lane’ in its name. I have no idea who Justin is but I can only imagine that he must be a top blokes if the pizzas served here are anything to go by.

This place gets packed after 6pm (especially on Saturday nights) and crowds have been known to queue up for more than an hour. However, we got here in good time (just before 6pm) so we were able to take our pick of the tables along the walkway. It DID get busy (and noisy!) really quickly but not once did we experience slow service.

Um, NO.

We started off with some cocktails. Dom had the bella dona ($12), a sweet mixture of Bombay Sapphire, prosecco, vanilla, blueberries which was very sweet with strong floral notes – kinda like Dom herself.

Marty had the spicy pear fizz ($17), a fruitier concoction which reminded me of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It contained Grey Goose, licor 43, jalapeno, lemon, agave and soda. Marty thought his drink was strong, though not as sweet as he expected going by the description on the menu. He said that while it was spicy and bitter, it was still a nice, mature drink with a bit of fruity fun.

They also have a special pear cocktail called the pear affair ($29) which comes in a jug. No, this wasn’t all for me. I had some for myself but also poured some for the others. This big baby contains 42 below, moscato, pear, peach, cloudy apple and spices which made it my favourite cocktail of the night. It was refreshingly crisp and I loved the slight hint of spices. It certainly was an affair to remember.

We shared a charcuterie plate containing salami, jamon serrano, cornichons, tomato relish and grissini ($15). It’s not terribly hard to screw up a charcuterie plate so I won’t too hardcore with my review here, but suffice to say that it was a wonderful way to begin what would then be a pretty heavy (but delicious) meal.

Our first pizza was the mushroom pizza ($21). The base was perfectly thin and crispy with a hint of doughy-ness and the style reminded me of +39 and Ladro from Melbourne. Normally, pizza bases tend to be overshadowed by the toppings (which can often be a bad thing) but not in this case. Here, the base and the toppings shared centre stage, making it a well-balanced pizza. The mushroom, onion, mozzarella, thyme and grana padano cheese topping may have been strong (even for a vegetarian pizza, according to Marty) but it certainly did not overpower the base.

If we thought the mushroom pizza was amazing, then no words can sufficiently do the prawn and calamari pizza ($24) justice. Topped with fresh, local tiger prawns and calamari rings, the base once again shared equal billing while mozzarella, chilli and parsley kept things zing-y.

I normally like to sprinkle chilli flakes on my pizzas but thought the handmade chilli oil provided was even better. Not that the pizzas needed it, but the chilli oil certainly added a bit of extra FutureSex/LoveSounds with each bite.

To keep things in check, we ordered some greens in the form of a rocket, pear and pecorino salad ($9). I don’t know why Justin Lane love their pears so much but we’ll forgive them because they certainly know how to use them – this salad was fresh and struck a great balance between salty, peppery and sweet.

It doesn’t look like we ordered a lot of food but we were actually too full for dessert, and even had to take a few slices home. On Marty and Dom’s second visit (without me, dammit!), however, they managed to squeeze in some ricotta cannoli, which was apparently just as good as the ones they serve at T Cavallaro & Sons in Footscray. They also had the homemade burnt butter ice cream which also delicious. Oh well, next time.

Next time, I would also love to try the pappardelle with slow-cooked beef cheek ragu ($19) and the other pizza flavours. Maybe a spinach, béchamel, buffalo mozzarella, basil pesto, pine nut ($19) one or the smoked pork belly with pear, provolone and chives ($22) one? I can’t wait.

Justin Lane Pizzeria & Bar on Urbanspoon

Commune café (Gold Coast, QLD)

1844 Gold Coast Highway
Burleigh Heads QLD 4220
+61 7 5520 3377

If Surfers Paradise is glitter, fake tits and Hummers, then Burleigh Heads is the more relaxed and more Jack Johnson-y side of Gold Coast. It’s the part of town that schoolies tend to avoid and where all the surfies prefer to catch the perfect wave. It’s also home to many of Dom’s favourite eateries, including Commune Café, a popular left-of-centre breakfast joint that’s popular with those who appreciate good brunch fare where organic ingredients are king.

Saturday mornings are undoubtedly busy at Commune so we weren’t surprised to find a massive queue when Marty, Dom and I arrived on the wrong side of 11am. The breakfast gods must have been smiling upon us, though, for the big corner table in the back of the room soon vacated so we didn’t have to perch awkwardly on a shabby couch outside the café.

The coffee here is Campos and my latte was beautiful. It was lusciously creamy and sweet, and certainly one of the better places to get a decent cup of coffee on the ‘Coast.

The juices are also excellent. Marty ordered a red juice which contained ‘pretty much everything’ from apple to watermelon, from ginger to ginger and from beetroot to pineapple. The only thing they didn’t have was some mint which would have sealed the deal but oh well. Meanwhile, Dom had a less ‘busy’ juice but it didn’t mean that it was less tasty.

Dom ordered her default breakfast dish, the mixed mushrooms sautéed with garlic and thyme ($12) with a side of avocado for an extra $3. The fragrantly herby mushrooms – a medley of shiitake, brown and Swiss – are served on a thick slice of organic sourdough with crumbed Persian feta. I can see why Dom hardly strays from this dish – it’s earthy and creamy, and oh so delicious.

Marty ordered the eggs ‘bene’ ($15). This dish comes with a choice of bacon, ham off the bone or smoked salmon – no prizes in guessing which one he chose. He also requested a side of chilli jam (an extra $2) to bring a bit of sweetness and spice to the creamy house-made hollandaise.

It was a perfectly executed dish, with the poached eggs creating runny rivers down the bacon and wonderfully soaking the single sourdough slice. Meanwhile, the chilli jam was equal parts tangy and sweet, with a slight kick to it, bringing the dish together.

I very rarely order sweet breakfasts but I decided to order the blueberry pancakes ($12) because it came with ‘organic coconut ice cream’ (no two words get me more excited these days than ‘organic’ and ‘coconut’). The dish also came with sliced bananas and lots of maple syrup so I decided to add a side of bacon ($3) to diffuse the sweetness. Unfortunately, they ran out of coconut ice cream (more like, the ice cream was too hard so they took the tub out of the freezer that morning and ended up melting the damn thing, or something) so they made do with vanilla ice cream. Although the coconut ice cream would have made the dish so much better, this dish was still awesome in its own right. Yes, it was sweet and yes, it was decadent but it was delicious. Oh yeah.

Commune hit all the right spots – the service was friendly and the food was fifty shades of fantastic. I will be back for a take two of the blueberry pancakes (hopefully they will have servable coconut ice cream then!) and am looking forward to stealing a few forkfuls of Dom’s sautéed mushrooms.

Commune Cafe on Urbanspoon